As presidents, politicians, and historians gather at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there is a radical reconsideration underway regarding the legacy of the Texan who is credited with changing American race relations. A few blocks distant from the seminars and speeches, the LBJ Murder Conference is being conducted at Brave New Books for three consecutive nights to offer an abundance of arguments and evidence that Johnson was a cold-blooded killer of JFK, RFK, and MLK, and several other people in his climb to the White House.
Before dismissing the alternative gathering as nonsense, consider the fact that the family of Martin Luther King has publicly stated they believe LBJ was involved in the civil rights leader’s assassination. They do not discredit the late president for his efforts regarding civil rights, but in a 1997 ABC News broadcast, Dexter Scott King pointed his finger at LBJ.
“Based on the evidence that I’ve been shown, I would think that it would be very difficult for something of that magnitude to occur on his watch and he not be privy to it,” he said. “I am told that it was part and parcel of Army intelligence, C.I.A., F.B.I. I think we knew it all along.”
Dr. King had been an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War being waged by the Johnson administration and the marches for fair pay and equal rights were additional difficulties for the president. The war, however, which Johnson prosecuted after JFK had indicated he was going to remove all troops subsequent to his reelection, was LBJ’s greatest problem, and King’s increasing focus.
“I am convinced,” MLK said, “That it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.
No one in King’s family believes James Earl Ray was the assassin. Ray recanted his confession claiming he had been pressured into making it in order to avoid the death penalty. Researchers have never adequately answered questions regarding Ray’s ability as a two-bit criminal to gather multiple passports and identities from Canadian operatives before he fled to Europe.
The organizer and sponsor of the LJB Murder Conference is Robert Morrow, an Austin real estate developer and investor. Morrow’s home is filled with books on Johnson and his presidency; he acknowledges he has a certain obsession with LBJ and his legacy, and the cowardice of key historians.
“The truth hurts,” Morrow said. “The truth about LBJ and his murders is discrediting to the narrative of American exceptionalism, that we are better than other folks, that we are not a banana republic. So many people in government, the media and academia have been lying about Lyndon Johnson; the truth about LBJ personally discredits them as well. Robert Caro and Robert Dallek, both who refuse to acknowledge LBJ as a serial murderer, are prime examples.”
Morrow, and an increasing number of historians and researchers, sees more than just political calculation in LBJ’s decisions. Phillip Nelson wrote the most compelling case against Johnson. LBJ: The Mastermind Behind the JFK Assassination, uses new and extant evidence to build a convincing narrative that the Texas president worked with CIA operatives, the military, the mob, and wealthy oilmen to eliminate JFK. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, Kennedy had vowed to “break the CIA into a million pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The agency had conducted coups and assassinations around the world and key individuals from the CIA and those operations were photographed in Dealey Plaza on the day the president was slaughtered.
Morrow argues the evidence all points back to LBJ and that the Civil Rights Movement saved the president from murder charges.
“Lyndon Johnson was a serial murderer who should have been strapped into a Texas electric chair and fried until his eyeballs popped out,” Morrow said. “Mass murderers like LBJ are by definition anti-civil rights. After murdering the president JFK, and just before his imminent destruction at the hands of the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson came out for civil rights as a ‘keep-out-of-jail’ ticket from the JFK assassination. By co-opting the liberals and civil rights activists Lyndon Johnson inoculated himself from being the #1 suspect in the JFK assassination, which he orchestrated. Furthermore, the Democratic party could have nominated Robert Kennedy for president in 1964 if Lyndon Johnson had not come out strongly for civil rights.”
RFK and LBJ consistently expressed mutual disdain. Bobby was said to be suspicious of Johnson and was quoted by journalists and historians as having said, “The only way to really know what happened to my brother in Dallas is through the powers of the office of the presidency.” RFK was also a loud critic of the Vietnam War and was using it as a platform for his campaign to win the Democratic nomination just before he was killed.
Johnson was under two federal investigations at the time JFK was murdered. A federal agricultural allotment scheme in West Texas was alleged to be paying him millions in kickbacks along with a similar operation involving his senate aide Bobby Baker, who was brokering federal contracts and offering favors through Johnson for bribes. The Kennedy’s had already let it be known they intended to drop LBJ from the 1964 ticket and replace him with North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, which would have ended Johnson’s political career, and probably have sent him to prison because the federal probes would have been completed with sufficient evidence for indictment. Life Magazine was set to publish a major expose’ on LBJ a matter of days after the president was assassinated and the lengthy investigation ended up being spiked and never printed as a result of the Dallas murder.
People like Robert Morrow suffer from being called “conspiracy theorists” and are generally dismissed by mainstream media. However, an increasing body of research and serious scholarship is building a case that Americans need to reconsider and then reclaim their history from the JFK and LBJ eras.
In addition to Phillip Nelson’s LBJ book, historian James Douglas provides a sober frame of reference, new evidence, and a broader understanding of the forces that led to Kennedy’s death. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Still Matters, offers Americans a viewpoint on the military-industrial interests of the sixties, their distrust of Kennedy and anger at his intentions to withdraw from Vietnam, the wealthy Dallas oilmen who despised Kennedy’s intentions to end the oil depletion allowance, and the CIA leadership that wanted an invasion of Cuba, and even a nuclear attack on Moscow. Douglas, too, does a diligent job of picking up the evidence and the trails that were ignored by the Warren Commission.
Other books also take up the alternative view of LBJ. Barr McClellan, who became a partner in the law firm that represented Johnson, wrote, Blood, Money, and Power: How LBJ Killed JFK, which became the basis of the last episode of the History Channel’s series, “The Men Who Killed Kennedy.” McClellan’s claims and research were used for an hour long segment called, The Guilty Men, which pointed the finger at LBJ, his lawyer Ed Clark, and Johnson’s long time associate and reputed hit man Mac Wallace. Although the Johnson family and the late President Gerald Ford convinced the network to not rebroadcast the segment, McClellan’s narrative is not easily dismissed, simply because of the presence of Wallace.
Mac Wallace was former Marine who became a president of the University of Texas Student Union and joined LBJ’s staff under the auspices of the US Department of Agriculture. Eventually, he began having an affair with Johnson’s sister, Josefa, who was also sleeping with John Kinser, owner of Austin’s Butler Park Pitch ‘n Putt. According to McClellan and researchers like Nelson, Kinser asked Josefa to try to get money from her brother, who had become a U.S. senator a few years earlier. LBJ was said to be suspicious that his sister, an alcoholic and drug user, had told Kinser what she knew about some of her brother’s illicit electoral activities. LBJ is believed to have interpreted the request for financial help as blackmail.
Eventually, Mack Wallace showed up at the Butler Park pro shop and shot Kinser to death. LBJ may have informed Wallace that Kinser was also sleeping with his wife, which was testimony later given during his murder trial. A golfer heard the shots and wrote down the license plate to Wallace’s car; he was arrested in a few hours. One of LBJ’s attorneys, John Cofer, agreed to represent Wallace, and two of his financial supporters, M.E. Ruby and Bill Carroll were reported to have posted bond. In the 1952 trial, Cofer argued that the killing was a crime of passion because Kinser was not only sleeping with Josefa Johnson but was also having an affair with Wallace’s wife.
Regardless, the jury found Wallace guilty of murder and eleven of the panelists wanted the death penalty while one suggested life in prison. The judge in the case, Charles O. Betts, issued a “jury verdict notwithstanding” and gave Wallace a five year suspended sentence. The jury went along with the ruling because, as they claimed later, they and their families had been threatened. According to Bill Adler of the Texas Observer in 1984, many of them called Kinser’s family to apologize for Wallace going free and explained that men with guns had shown up on their doorsteps and made it clear they would be in danger if Wallace were sent to prison.
One juror described a man wearing a suit and holding a shotgun that he cocked when the door was opened and pulled the trigger after pointing the barrel at the juror. He was told, “That gun could have just as easily been loaded. Be very careful about your decision.”
Wallace’s association with LBJ in this murder is undeniable. The killer’s attorney, Cofer, had been central to LBJ’s legal maneuvering to steal the 1948 senatorial election through the Box 13 scandal. Cofer worked for Ed Clark, who, essentially, arranged funding and briefcases of cash for LBJ’s political career, and was later implicated by his law partner McClellan as being the source of the money that paid for the JFK murder.
The LBJ relationship with Wallace is profoundly important and, according to researchers like Nelson and McClellan, incontrovertibly connects Johnson to numerous murders before Dallas. How Wallace spent the remainder of his time prior to that day in Dealey Plaza is also critical and includes the death of a federal agricultural official involved in the Billy Sol Estes scandal in West Texas. The death of USDA Inspector Henry Marshall is too historically important to be given a light touch in this space but Wallace is the lead suspect in that murder, and in more than a dozen that followed, which were all business associates of Estes, whose kickback operation, if exposed, threatened to destroy LBJ’s political ascension.
Even after getting legal counsel from LBJ’s and Mac Wallace’s lawyer John Cofer, Estes ended up in prison. In 1984, he told a grand jury that Mac Wallace killed Henry Marshall because he could “blow the whistle on the cotton allotment scam” and implicate LBJ. Estes’ later legal team wrote to the U.S. Justice Department that the Pecos conman was willing to testify that LBJ order the deaths of Marshall, and Estes’ associates George Krutilek, Harold Orr, Ike Rogers, and Coleman Wade, as well as LBJ’s sister Josefa, John Kinser, and JFK.” Estes was willing to make his claims under oath.
Whether Johnson used the Civil Rights movement to increase his political esteem after numerous crimes or he was simply riding an historical trend for political expediency seems almost irrelevant in this more disturbing context. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed by his administration and their cultural impact has been immeasureable. If, however, Americans are to have a true understanding of our nation, we need an honest reappraised of LBJ as a man, which historians like Robert Caro have cautiously avoided. Because a conspiracy is not a theory, if it actually happened. We will never know ourselves as a nation, until we know the truth about Dallas and LBJ.
And that truth is still accessible.